US expert says fungus threatens 9 SE bat species

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A federal wildlife researcher says nine bat species in the Southeast are most threatened by a deadly bat fungus wiping out the flying mammals that play a key role in controlling insects.

The U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station in Asheville on Wednesday identified the bat species most imperiled by white-nose syndrome, a fungus rapidly spreading from the Northeast toward North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky.

The federal agency says Susan Loeb, a leading bat expert based in Clemson, S.C., warns that little-brown bats, Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats could become extinct if they become infected by the fungus, which affects bats that hibernate in caves and mines.

More than a million bats have died as the result of the fungus.

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